Cities in the Global South are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming. Rising temperatures are worsening the effects of ozone pollution, for example. Like many other cities in the Global South, Santiago de Chile is highly segregated along socio-economic lines. RIFS scientist Tabish Ansari and a team of researchers have examined and compared the effects of heatwaves and ozone episodes in different areas of the city.
Hot on the heels of the pandemic came the energy crisis – has this experience led to a shift in public opinion on climate action in Germany? Broadly speaking, support for ambitious climate policy remains strong, however many citizens are concerned that policymakers lack the political will and that the burdens of the transformation are not being shared equitably. But it seems that many people underestimate the willingness of their fellow citizens to embrace change. This is the conclusion of the 2023 Social Sustainability Barometer, an annual representative survey of over 6,500 people across Germany on the energy and transport transitions, conducted as part of the Ariadne project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
In the struggle for their land and way of life, the indigenous Amazon peoples have already achieved a lot. But they need support in protecting their territories, which are so important for the global climate and biodiversity. During a European tour, a delegation of indigenous chiefs visited Berlin, met with the President of Germany and subsequently discussed their concerns at a public event.
The EU plans to introduce a new levy that puts a price on carbon-intensive goods entering the EU. RIFS researchers have identified measures to ensure that the scheme addresses issues of justice and participation.
Achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement will require the combined efforts of states and companies around the world. How can developing countries achieve carbon neutrality and boost their resilience while pursuing economic growth and improved living standards? A study by the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) draws on the example of Nepal to analyse the benefits of a net-zero emissions strategy.
Young people have long been marginalized in national, regional, and United Nations political fora. Now they are actively demanding their rights as representatives of present and future generations. They do so through public protests, but also by taking legal action to assert their claims. Scientists at the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) have studied the potential impacts of climate litigation in the Anthropocene.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has convened the new German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE). RIFS Scientific Director Mark Lawrence will serve a three-year term on the council. At the inaugural meeting held at the Federal Chancellery on 15 February 2023, the members unanimously elected Reiner Hoffmann, the former president of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), to chair the council.
Is the current energy crisis putting the brakes on climate action? Undaunted by the growing financial burden, support for the energy transition remains strong in Germany. Despite the spectre of skyrocketing energy prices, a broad section of the public wants to see the government double down on its efforts to achieve climate neutrality. This is the conclusion of the annual “Social Sustainability Barometer 2022”.
The climate crisis continues to be a major concern for many young people, who must also grapple with new and emerging crises such as the war in Ukraine. This has serious implications for mental health and lends urgency to the issue of intergenerational justice. In recent years, young people have sought to bring the responsibilities of older generations toward younger people more sharply into focus in environmental and climate debates. In a new paper, IASS researchers show how sustainable futures have become an important issue in climate policy discourse.
Metals such as cobalt and lithium play a vital role in the energy transition and are used in the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. However, the mining of these raw materials is environmentally harmful, working conditions are often hazardous, and local communities are frequently excluded from the planning and operation of mines. In a new article, an international research team led by IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn describes how current mining practices could be improved and the sourcing and management of metals better aligned with the goals of sustainable development.
In contemporary societies, the relationship between democracy and sustainability has become ever more complex. A new handbook edited by IASS researchers provides comprehensive and critical coverage of this topic from both a theoretical level and through analysis of political discourses and practices.
The wicked problems of the Anthropocene present major challenges to traditional scientific methods. Transdisciplinary research is a way to overcome these challenges as it involves both non-academic societal actors and academics from various disciplines. Despite its increasing popularity, the transdisciplinary approach still has not quite caught on everywhere – and it is often misunderstood. A publication from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) summarises definitions and characteristics of transdisciplinary research and outlines an exemplary three-phase model that transdisciplinary teams can use to carry out their research successfully.
The current geological epoch is defined by impacts of human activities on the environment. The problems related to these effects are not adequately addressed by international environmental law. As Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow for 2022 at the IASS, Louis Kotzé, South African scholar of international environmental law, will develop innovative concepts that can underpin new legal norms to protect the entire Earth system.
In recent years, both activists and researchers have started to invoke the term "fossil imperialism" to highlight the ways in which imperialist politics are tied up with the logic of fossil capitalism. Under fossil capitalism, ceaseless accumulation of capital necessitates continued expansion of an energy base of coal, oil, and natural gas.
The ambivalent role of material infrastructure (and especially large-scale energy technologies) in planetary crises has attracted increasing scholarly attention in recent years. RIFS Fellow Benno Fladvad examined this issue in January’s Justice in Sustainability lecture.
What do reactive border closures and the de-nationalization of undocumented populations around the world have to do with the climate crisis-mobility nexus? As part of the RIFS public lecture series `Justice in Sustainability’, Dr Mimi Sheller recently examined the interconnections of the climate crisis, unsustainable mobilities, and migration through the lens of the politics of movement, also known as kinopolitics.
As we start off the new year and set our sights on new goals and projects, we also want to take stock of the many activities and achievements of the RIFS “Justice in Sustainability” focal topic team during 2022.
The team behind the IASS Focal Topic “Justice in Sustainability” has released a short film that explores issues of justice in the context of climate crises and the decarbonisation of energy systems. The film presents prominent voices in the field from scientists, activists and practitioners who have participated in events and lectures hosted as part of the IASS Focal Topic in 2022.
Africa is a continent rich in cultures, natural resources and biodiversity. However, the continent faces diverse environmental challenges, including pollution, deforestation, and species extinction. In a recent lecture Dr. Caiphas Brewsters Soyapi argued that traditional knowledge offers a moral compass that Africans can use to find their own response to ecological problems, a view that many judiciaries are coming to share.
Four years ago, the student-led climate strike movement took the world by storm. Ever since, the strikes have played an important role in the strategic repertoire of the global climate movement. Yet as emissions keep rising, even mass protests with millions of participants have proved unable to build sufficient political pressure to secure meaningful political concessions. This presents a strategic dilemma to the movement: How does one even strike amidst an escalating climate crisis?
Were good ideas enough to overcome the climate crisis, there would probably never have been the need for a climate movement. Despite the countless number of global climate reports, policy proposals and transformation strategies published in recent years, urgency on the level of discourse has done little to change the fossil-fuel status quo.
This year has made it abundantly clear that we are edging closer to climate catastrophe much faster than previously thought. Floods, heatwaves and wildfires across the globe have cost thousands of lives and destroyed the livelihoods of millions more. At the same time, global cooperation on climate change remains lacking. To the contrary, confronted with a steep rise in energy prices, as a result of an unexpected worldwide squeeze on energy supplies over the past year, Global North governments are undermining their own carbon emission reduction targets.
In April’s session of the IASS focal topic “Justice in Sustainability” lecture series, Dr Leah Temper shed light on “just transformations towards sustainability” from the perspectives of those fighting on the ground to achieve them. Her discussion of environmental justice activism took us back to the roots of thinking justice and environmental politics together. Find out in this summary what transformative sustainability studies should learn from environmental justice movements a summary of her lecture. You can also rewatch the lecture and the following Q&A session on the IASS YouTube channel.
Tasneem Essop, Executive Director of the Climate Action Network (CAN), held an inspiring lecture on the vital but often downplayed role that civil society can play in ensuring ambitious and just climate action. CAN is a global network of over 1,800 civil society organisations from over 120 countries that are fighting the climate crisis. The lecture took place as part of the monthly IASS Focal Topic Year on “Justice in Sustainability” public lecture series on May 19th, 2022.
Elias König recently joined the IASS as a Justice and Sustainability Fellow and will be working on a research project that examines the youth-led climate strike movement. In this blog post, he outlines his professional background and his plans for the fellowship.
Abundant energy resources in many parts of Africa position the continent as a potential location for the production and export of climate-friendly hydrogen, either based on renewable electricity (green hydrogen) or natural gas in combination with carbon capture and storage technologies (blue hydrogen). Green hydrogen is produced via electrolysis by splitting water molecules into their component parts using renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is produced by splitting natural gas into hydrogen and CO2 – after which the CO2 needs to be captured and stored.
The notion of development, or what we understand as prosperity, whether of a country, group, or individual, has been shaped throughout history by social constructs that stem from colonialism as an ideology. Colonialism is entrenched in our society as a monocultural form of domination and understanding and shaping the world. Its influence extends to the ways in which we interact with each other and with nature.
The struggle for agrarian and environmental justice by the farmers movement in Northwest India was the second lecture in this year’s IASS Focal Topic series “Justice in Sustainability.” Our guest, Navdeep Boora, is a graduate student at the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER) Mohali. In his presentation, Navdeep gave us insights into the farmers’ protest against the Indian government’s attempt to further liberalize the country’s agricultural sector in 2021.
Malika Virah-Sawmy recently joined the IASS as our new Justice and Sustainability Fellow and will be working on youth climate action during her fellowship. In this blog post she outlines her professional background and her plans for the fellowship.
The long-running dispute before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) between Poland and the Czech Republic over the Turów open-pit coal mine on the Polish side of the border came to an end two weeks ago. Under the agreement reached by the two countries, the Czech Republic is to be compensated for environmental harms caused by the mine’s operation. In response, the Czech government withdrew its complaint to the CJEU on 3 February.
The April 2021 decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court in the case Neubauer et al. vs Germany has drawn a lot of attention worldwide. Louis Kotzé, Research Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, North-West University, South Africa and currently Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow at the IASS, and Jannis Krüßmann, a young climate activist, spoke on the ruling and its wider consequences for climate litigation on January 27, 2022 as part of the focal topic "Justice and Sustainability".
At COP26, we saw decisions and a handful of statements, pledges, and declarations parallel to the official negotiations centered on Just Transition. But did anything change in the substance of the JT debate in Glasgow?
The SPD's success in the Bundestag elections is surprising, even though the polls predicted this outcome in the days and weeks leading up to the election. In July, polls by infratest-dimap and the Elections Research Group suggested that the SPD could win as little as 15-16 percent of the vote and a neck-and-neck race between the CDU/CSU and the Greens seemed likely. But things turned out differently, and now the Social Democrats are the victors, even though the SPD's 25 percent win is a far cry from the results returned by previous SPD chancellors.
Advancements in new technologies open up new ocean industries and possibilities to explore the ocean. Some of these new technologies, such as swarms of underwater mini robots to map the seafloor or sensors on automated underwater vehicles, assist scientists in their work and produce growing quantities of ocean data.
We are happy to announce the adoption of the institute’s inaugural focal topic. Throughout 2022 we will undertake collaborative research activities, hold public events, and publish research exploring themes related to matters of social justice.